Using state and local authorities as enforcers of immigration laws in the United States has resulted in an undermining of public safety, with immigrant communities being too afraid to call the police even if they have become victims of crime. This is according to a short film released yesterday by Human Rights Watch, which says that cities and states should separate federal immigration enforcement from community police work.
The video, which lasts for just under four minutes, contains accounts from immigrants who have been victims of crime in Nashville in Tennessee. It shows that the federal Secure Communities program, which calls on local law enforcement all over the United States to identify immigrants who could be deported, has resulted in immigrants being too afraid to call the police to report a crime.
“The federal task of identifying people for deportation should not get blurred with the state function of protecting people from crimes like rape,” says Human Rights Watch US program director Alison Parker. “When those functions are confused and whole swathes of people say they’re ‘afraid to call 911’, public safety suffers.”
The federal government claims that the Secure Communities program targets mainly serious, violent criminals; however, Human Rights Watch analyzed government data from 2009 and 2013 and found that hundreds of people with strong family ties in the US and small-scale non-violent offenses have been swept up in the process. Immigrants and police officers have said that hard-won trust is destroyed every time an immigrant ends up being deported after being in contact with the police.